CCNS Athletes CRUSHING it at Valley Of The Sun

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                                                                                                 Pictured is CCNS athlete David Lapierre leading the 17-18 race with his Hot Tubes teammates.

CCNS Athletes Take On Valley Of The Sun

Coach Matan Sopher, Coach Owen Wright, and CCNS athlete Josh Lebo were among the CCNS athletes who headed to Arizona to test their early-season fitness at the Valley of the Sun Stage Race. With this help of his teammate, Owen, Josh Lebo was able to secure a GC win in Pro/ Cat 1 after winning the opening Time Trial, and Coach Matan was able to take 5th in GC in the Category 2 field.

Some of the best racers in the country were there, fully committed to 100% effort, so this win is huge for Josh. We sat down and asked them how their races unfolded Here’s what they had to say!

Josh Lebo Valley of the Sun CS Velo


Josh Lebo Takes The Stage 1 TT Win By A Small Margin Amoungst Top U.S Pros!

CCNS: What was the mindset and pacing going into the time trial?

Josh: The plan was to go out a little on the easier side, aim for a negative split power-wise, and push things up as far as I was comfortable in the second half. I ended up with a much bigger negative split than I wanted: 415 for just under 7:22 from the start to the first turn and 452 for 6:15 from the corner to the finish coming back. Overall, it was 19:09 at 420.

Coach Matan: Being that Time-trialing is one of my main strengths, the first stage, a ~20 min TT suits me very well, so I came into the event having put a lot of preparation in on my TT bike. My initial goal was to do between 370-380 watts for the TT, but the several-hour car ride to the event, and having a sour stomach on race morning meant that my legs weren’t nearly as fresh for the effort as I would have liked. Still, I managed to hold things together, pacing the effort well and averaging 365 watts.I managed to stay as aero as I possibly could, not coming up from the bars a single time and as a result, achieved a respectable 5th Place in the TT.

100 Starters, 100 Miles, 4000 FT of Elevation, & Many KJ’s spent!

CCNS: What was your plan for day two? Describe how the race panned out.

Josh: We wanted to let a small break get up the road, then bring it back on the last lap for a bunch finish as the rest of the GC podium were unlikely to take any bonus seconds in a sprint. From the gun, all 4 of us made it to the front and covered a few larger groups which went after the neutral roll out to the first corner. Maybe halfway through the false flat downhill between corners 1 and 2 three guys attacked away solo, then joined up to make a group of 3 up the road. We let the gap go out to the group throughout the next lap to discourage anyone trying to jump across, and then Allan flatted going across the cattle guard just after turn 1 on the second lap.

Coach Matan: Day 2 was all about protecting my GC position and possibly climbing up on GC by scoring bonus seconds. Another goal was sniffing out breaks to try and take the win on the day. I took a risk by getting into an early break of 3 on the first lap. I did a good job of working with the move, but not overcommitting by staying as aero as possible and pulling through as easily as I could get away with. We stayed away through the second lap, where I scored a couple bonus seconds. Soon, about 10 other riders from the field had bridged up to us including some of the race favorites, and we still had a 2-minute gap over the main peloton. Despite working together quite well, our hopeful breakaway was eventually caught by a charging peloton.

CCNS: Were there ever any worries about letting the break go? How did your team respond to that?

Josh: We got a time gap at the bottom of the hill and the break was over 4 minutes up at this point which was more than we wanted so Owen got on the front and pushed it going up the climb which brought the gap down slightly. At this point all 4 of us were in the top 10 wheels with Allan doing most of the work along with Owen and Taylor occasionally taking a pull (Owen pulling on the climb). When we got to the bottom of the climb on the third lap the gap to the break had ballooned out to over 5 minutes which did cause a little panic in the bunch so a few other teams took up the pace on the climb while we tried to remain calm and keep the pace up throughout the rest of the lap. Coming through the bottom of the climb on the 4th lap the gap was starting to come down (~3:30) and other teams were even more aggressive on and over the climb so we were no longer on the front and narrowly avoided a big crash on the high speed section from the finish to corner 1.

CCNS: How did the final parts of the race play out?

Josh: There were a few more solo moves along the flat stretch between corners 2 and 3 which we let dangle as they were not threatening for GC and that section was a super fast tailwind so things came back together fairly easily. This was around the time Owen dropped. Sam did make another move here which Taylor brought back going into the final corner before dropping leaving me solo to tackle the final climb. With about 3k to go Alex Hoehn attacked so I worked with the team california guys to bring that back (Alex was fairly close on GC after the TT) just as we got to the steepest part of the climb. I was a little gassed from covering moves and pacing the last two laps so I started filtering back through the group a bit on the climb and finished in the main bunch a few seconds back on the stage winners.

Coach Matan: I managed to gather another couple of bonus seconds heading into the last lap. Even though we had been caught, in the back of my head I still knew there was a chance for me to win this race, but I had to stay vigilant of dangerous moves. On the last lap, I saw two riders go up the road that I knew would be able to stick the move. Unfortunately I was at the very back of the field and got caught flat-footed, unable to move up. By the time I had navigated around the field and tried to bridge up to the move, it was too late and I could not bridge the gap. Bummed about missing the obvious winning move, I finished in the field, but still earned enough bonus seconds to hold onto 5th on GC by one second!

High-Speed Corners, Avoiding Crashes, & Top Spots on GC At The Opening Stage Race Of The Year!

CCNS: Now coming into the final stage…How did you race, to ensure you’d sustain your position on GC?

Josh: I missed my clip in so I immediately went from front row to mid pack and eventually was washed back towards the back of the bunch as I wasn’t riding the course very well in the first 10-20 minutes (perhaps some PTSD from breaking my collarbone in the VOS crit back in 2022). Thankfully Taylor dropped back with me and helped me to keep cool and pick up on the smooth lines while Owen and Allan stayed at the front and ensured everything stayed together. About 30 minutes in we started moving up through the bunch slowly and made our way to the front with 6 laps to go or so. We rode the front for a few laps before the teams going for the stage started to assemble at the front. Thankfully we avoided the nasty crash in the second to last corner on lap 3 at which point Taylor headed for the front of the race to see if he could go for a stage result. I just kept it upright through the last two laps and finished on bunch time to take the GC win.

Coach Matan: In the crit, my main objective was to stay upright and finish with the pack to retain 5th place. I managed to do that, dodging several crashes on the closing lap and rolled in with the pack to take 5th on GC.

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                                               Matan Sopher driving the break up the climb in the Cat 2 road race.

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